Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes

Director: Junta Yamaguchi (Japan). Year of Release: 2020

Kato lives in a flat above the café he runs. It is a spartan place – a bed, an acoustic guitar, a computer monitor and that’s about it. One day after work, he’s looking for a plectrum when a face appears on the monitor – that of Kato. It explains that because his security camera has a 2 minute delay, he is able to address himself from the future. Oh, and by the way, the plectrum is under the rug.

Kato goes downstairs to see if someone’s paying a trick on him. In the security monitor he sees himself, in his room, but 2 minutes before. He repeats the conversation that we have just witnessed, but this time from the other side. This process will be repeated several times with increasing numbers of people – first the barmaid Aya, then their friends, and eventually a pair of gangsters who they’ve managed to swindle and a pair of time cops from the future.

Having seen the trailer for Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, I was pretty sure that I was going to either love it or hate it. Get a science fiction film that plays with time travel slightly wrong, and you can very quickly end up being highly irritating. It’s good to report, then, that this film barely puts a foot wrong. It is, in a sense, the opposite of a Christopher Nolan film. It is more clever than it originally appears and it doesn’t take itself remotely seriously.

Beyond… (I’ll spare you the full title) is a high concept film with a very low budget. It is the debut film by a Kyoto theatre troupe with a wobbly set and enthusiastic acting. It is all filmed on an iPhone and made to look like it was all shot in a single take. Footage played over the end credits shows just how the actors were able to scale five storeys carrying a computer monitor without bumping into walls.

At the same time, this is not a film that insults the intelligence of its audience. It casually mentions the butterfly effect, why Nostradamus was a disappointment and the Droste Effect. Maybe that last one needs an explanation. Imagine a box of drinking chocolate. On the box there is a picture of a women holding a box of drinking chocolate. On that box there is a picture of a woman with a box of chocolate … repeat to infinity. This is the Droste Effect.

This could turn into a film that is very smug and keen to show off (I’m still looking at you, Nolan). But Beyond… has such a sense of its own ridiculousness that it never puts itself above its audience. Aya asks her future self what era will follow the current Reiwa era. But as future Aya is only 2 seconds ahead, she’s still in the Reiwa. Look, it’s funny when it’s on the screen.

The friends have an idea how they can see even further into the future. By bringing the bedroom monitor downstairs and placing it opposite the security screen, they achieve a form of Droste Effect – where a future person addresses a present person who in turn speaks to someone in the past. This means that they are able to see 4 minutes into the future. Anything more risks raising paradoxes which will bring the whole house of cards crashing down.

The film raises ideas which just fuck with our mind, but once they are brought into the real world, they are treated with absolute respect. So Kato has the idea of asking his future self if its worth asking out the nice woman from the nearby barbers’. Future Kato says “go fot it”, but it turns out that she turned (turns, will turn – this is not a review in which it’s easy to use tenses) him down but he’s scared to upset karma by saying something that contradicts what he said on film.

This is a film which is quite prepared to intelligently address Big Questions like determinism, and whether or not it would be a good thing if we knew what was going to happen to us. But it is first and foremost a comedy, and is never earnest if this gets in the way of getting a good laugh. It is a long time since I laughed so much at a film, yet I can’t really say what it was that was so funny.

Beyond… is meticulously paced. If the end credit footage is to be believed, each sequence of someone talking to their former self takes place exactly 2 minutes after the original scene. And well done for just being 70 minutes long. Not only does it not need to be any longer, if it did take more time, there would be a danger of losing its frenetic pace.

Other opinions are most definitely possible. If you don’t buy into the concept, if you are irritated by the lo-fi production standards, if you just don’t have that sort of sense of humour, I can anticipate you just wondering why anyone would bother to make a film like this. It’s a legitimate point of view. It’s also wrong.

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